A few months into my pregnancy, I wrote a post about the pregnancy comparison trap, in which I bemoaned my tendency to size myself and my pregnancy up against the blog entries I read online. Was I gaining too much weight? Was I active enough? Did I have cute maternity clothes? Since pregnancy was such a complete unknown to me, I was trying to understand my own experience in relation to others around me. I tried not to judge myself based on these comparisons, but I wasn’t always successful.
Well, if pregnancy comparisons are one thing, early motherhood comparisons are a bitch.
Much like pregnancy, this is all new to me, so I have sought out a community of other new mom bloggers and a few online parenting sites. I’m not trying to “one up” anyone by comparing my experience to fellow bloggers and new moms; I’m simply trying understand what is normal based on the experiences of those around me.
But I have to say, it’s been too easy for these comparisons to cast a large shadow of doubt across my new mom confidence. As I wrote last week, most of newborn parenting “clicks.” You figure out how to hold, burp and bathe your baby. You pick out outfits and change diapers. You find yourself kissing the top of his head just like you’ve seen countless of new moms do before. These basics aren’t the problem. It’s the challenge that comes a few weeks later when we’re supposed to be establishing a feeding schedule or starting a bedtime routine, or initiating play with your newborn that things get a little dicey for me. Go to any online baby/parenting website and these titles splash across the screen, leaving me panicking that I’m not doing enough with my baby. Surely, this must be why my baby isn’t sleeping through the night at 7 weeks old! I must also be to blame that he hasn’t grasped for his first toy or held up his head for more than 5 seconds during tummy time. It’s all my fault!
Hyperboles aside, it’s tough not to feel behind when parenting a newborn. The pressure to have a baby sleeping through the night or to have the good fortune to exclusively breastfeed are pretty high. Granted, that pressure is 100% self-created, but, when I see other moms online or in real life achieving these things, I instantly want their secret. I know there is no secret, and these moms may very well look to me with envy at my chilled out, napping baby who rarely fusses without reason.
Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we see the things we aren’t doing instead of the things we are?